Deputies of Color release letter urging rejection of Diocese of Florida bishop election

Posted Feb 28, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] The umbrella group known as Deputies of Color, which includes the House of Deputies’ four ethnic caucuses, released a letter Feb. 28 addressed to the bishops and diocese’s standing committees of The Episcopal Church outlining their concerns about the Diocese of Florida bishop coadjutor election and calling for denial of consent for the election.

The letter is signed by the steering committees of the four member caucuses, the Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Indigenous Caucus and the Latino Caucus. It comes after a churchwide Court of Review filed an investigatory report questioning the integrity of the November 2022 election of the Rev. Charlie Holt as Florida’s next bishop, citing anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the diocese that may have tilted the roster clergy delegates in favor of Holt and disparities in how lay delegates were deemed eligible to vote.

The Deputies of Color also highlighted earlier concerns that were raised about Holt’s fitness to serve as bishop, after he was first elected in May 2022. Holt later withdrew his acceptance of that result after the Court of Review’s previous investigation found flaws in how the election was conducted.

The following is the text of the Deputies of Color’s letter:

In a report dated January 31, 2023, The Episcopal Church’s Court of Review determined, among other matters, that certain exclusionary policies in the Diocese of Florida, which limited the voting eligibility of clergy and lay leaders to participate in a November 19, 2022, diocesan bishop election, “cast doubt on the integrity of the election process.” The court found that these policies, which were part of a pattern of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, had existed for most of the 20 years of Bishop John Howard’s episcopacy. See the Court of Review’s decision concerning the November 19th Special Election at [link]. This November 19th election was the second special election, the first of which was conducted on May 14, 2022, in which the Court of Review had previously found multiple deficiencies and irregularities in the election processes in which The Rev. Charlie Holt was also declared the winner. See the Court of Review’s decision concerning the May 14th Special Election at [link].

We will not address the specifics of the allegations concerning the Court’s questioning the integrity of both elections. Instead, we call your attention to the numerous documents which have been previously sent to you asking you to seriously consider whether you will consent to the election of The Rev. Charlie Holt as the Bishop Coadjutor for The Diocese of Florida. See the followings:

These documents together with the two opinions of The Court of Review reveal, even with a perfunctory review, the palpable pain that is being experienced in the Diocese of Florida and the wider church. We therefore contend that the time has come to tell the truth of this trauma inflicted on our LGBTQIA+ siblings and people of color so that we can repair the breach and make room for a time of healing in the Diocese of Florida.

Jesus said: “The wheat when first thrashed lies in one heap with chaff and straw and is after winnowed to separate it.” We therefore urge you to use your influence and ask The Rev. Charlie Holt to withdraw his acceptance of the position as the bishop-elect, or alternatively not consent to his election. In addition, we ask you to consult with Bishop Howard and seek his immediate retirement and allow the Diocese of Florida to seek healing and reconciliation among itself through the appointment of a Provisional Bishop. The Diocese’s pain reverberates throughout the entire Church. For as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Finally, we as leaders of the Deputies of Color unequivocally stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ. As the Apostle Paul has reminded us in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” We echo the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Full letter is available here.